Spotted Green Puffer

Green Spotted Puffer, Spotted Puffer Fish

Family: Tetraodontidae Spotted Green Puffer, Tetraodon nigroviridis, Green Spotted Puffer, Spotted Puffer FishTetraodon nigroviridisPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
Latest Reader Comment - See More
Temperments very greatly with these guys! Most are very subdued and just plain happy go lucky. I have 2 of these guys in my 90 gallon with several other fish, all... (more)  Steve Bussard

The Spotted Green Puffer is a very popular attraction and the most commonly available freshwater puffer fish!

The Spotted Green Puffer Tetraodon nigroviridis is a pretty puffer fish. Although it can get rather large, reaching over 6 1/2 inches (17 cm), its name is a perfect description. It has a beautiful rich green coloration on top with dark spots and a whitish belly. It is commonly called the Green Spotted Puffer, or simply the Spotted Puffer as well.

This Green Spotted Puffer is an adorable fish. The pug-like face with slightly bulging eyes and petite little mouth give it a cute peevish expression. It is very playful, active, and curious making it a joy to watch. It has a great personality as well. It will come to recognize its owner, getting excited when it sees you. It will quickly steal your heart, yet this is not an easy fish to keep as it has very specialized requirements for its care.

As the Green Spotted Puffer matures its needs change, so it is recommended for a more advanced aquarist. A juvenile can be kept in freshwater for a time, but they will quickly need a highly brackish environment to survive. They also have fast growing teeth which are prone to becoming overgrown. They requiring a continuous diet of hard shelled live food often to keep the teeth worn down. Being scaleless, puffer fish are more prone to disease.

This puffer will do well if kept singly as it can be an aggressive fin-nipper. It can be kept with others of its own kind as well as other species, but as with most puffer fish, they are very territorial and need their own space. Be certain that for a community setting you choose large non-aggressive tank mates and a good sized aquarium. Provide plants and rockwork arranged in such a way that they break the line of sight and offer hiding places, but still provide open areas swimming.

The natural habitat of this fish is in fresh to brackish waters. You can see on the distribution map below where it has been discovered. Like most brackish water fish, it can be acclimated to a full saltwater environment. Some hobbyists believe this is the best environment for it as it matures.

It is important that you distinguish which pufferfish you are purchasing as their water requirements vary considerably. The Spotted Green Puffer Tetraodon nigroviridis is often confused with its close relatives the Green Puffer or Ceylon Puffer Tetraodon fluviatilis, as well as the Freshwater Spotted Puffer Tetraodon schoutedeni.

All three are spotted and have very similar coloration, but the Spotted Green Puffer has a more rounded ball shaped body while the Green Puffer T. fluviatilis has a more elongated body. These two are readily available in the industry, while the Freshwater Spotted Puffer T. schoutedeni reportedly hasn't been available in the industry for a number of years.

For more Information on keeping this fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Freshwater Aquarium


Geographic Distribution
Tetraodon nigroviridis
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Tetraodontiformes
  • Family: Tetraodontidae
  • Genus: Tetraodon
  • Species: nigroviridis
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Spotted Green Puffer - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Size of fish - inches: 6.7 inches (17.02 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L)
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8° C)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Spotted Green Puffer Tetraodon nigroviridis was described by Marion de Procé in 1822. They are are found from Africa to Asia, ranging from Sri Lanka to Indonesia and north to China. Other common names they are know by include Green Spotted Puffer, Spotted Puffer, Spotted Green Pufferfish, and Green Spotted Pufferfish.

These puffer fish inhabit freshwater to brackish coastal estuaries; streams, rivers, and flood plains where they are found singly or in small groups. They feed on mollusks, crustaceans, and other invertebrates, as well as some plant matter. They may also eat scales and fins of other fish.

  • Scientific Name: Tetraodon nigroviridis
  • Social Grouping: Groups - In the wild, the Green Spotted Puffer Fish are found singly or in small group.
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed

Description

The Spotted Green Puffer has a stout rounded body shape with small spines. The face is very cute, having a smallish mouth topped by slightly bulging eyes and a broad forehead . Like many of the pufferfish, the coloring of the Spotted Green Puffer can vary. The adult is a beautiful rich green on top with dark spots and a whitish belly. In juveniles the green is less colorful. They can reach 6.7 inches (17 cm) in length.

Despite pet stores selling them as freshwater fish, these fish live in Brackish water in their natural habitats. In nature they do spend some time in fresh water during the rainy season as they will go in to rain flooded areas as juveniles. As juveniles they can tolerate swimming through areas of freshwater, brackish water to saltwater.

Pufferfish have the ability to 'puff' themselves up with water or air if threatened. When they inflate, their spines protrude outward and this apparently helps keep them from being eaten. Another defense of many puffer species is to produce toxic substances in their flesh that is poisonous if eaten.

  • Size of fish - inches: 6.7 inches (17.02 cm)
  • Lifespan: 15 years - Normally will only obtain this age in brackish or marine tanks.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

These fish are not for everyone. The Green Spotted puffers needs change to their environment as they mature. The juvenile are fairly easy as they are fine in freshwater. As they mature the need for brackish water or marine conditions become necessary. This takes more work and experience to maintain proper salinity. They are scaleless so are prone to more diseases. A fish keeper with Marine fish experience will be able to take care of them most easily.

The Spotted Green Puffer needs more space the most "community" type fish. They require 30 gallons per puffer, and also require bigger filters and more frequent water changes because they are such messy eaters. These puffer fish also have a fast growing teeth that will at one time or another need to be physically clipped. Even with the proper diet in an aquarium setting it is inevitable that you will need to clip their teeth. If you are up for the challenge these guys will make for an exciting and attractive addition to your tank.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

Foods and Feeding

The Spotted Green Puffers are omnivores. omnivores, though a large part of their diet is meaty foods. In their natural environment they will eat various invertebrates, crustaceans and mollusks, but they also eat some vegetation.They are not difficult to feed as they will usually eat a variety of flake, frozen, and live foods including shrimp, ghost shrimp (gut-loaded), bloodworms, freeze-dried krill, crabs, brine shrimp, and snails. Adult puffers can also be feed scallops, shelled-shrimp, whole mussels, clams, oyster, crayfish and crab legs.

Puffers have strong teeth that grow throughout their lives, so are prone to overgrown teeth. Offer hard shelled live food often to keep the teeth worn down. Feeding snails daily will help to wear down the teeth. If the teeth get too long, they will be unable to eat, requiring the owner to clip the teeth.

Take caution when feeding your Spotted Green Puffer, these puffers will literally eat them selves to death. Because these fish are predators, they spend most of their time hunting. In a tank they try to eat then same amount without burning off the calories of hunting.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore - In the wild they feed on mollusks, crustaceans, other invertebrates and some plant matter. They may also eat scales and fins of other fish.
  • Flake Food: Occasionally
  • Tablet Pellet: Occasionally
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Most of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - These puffer fish are constant hunters. Feed small amounts that they can quickly consume, but don't overfeed as these puffers will literally eat them selves to death.

Aquarium Care

Like all puffers the Green spotted puffer is very sensitive to water condition changes. These puffers are often sold as freshwater fish, which they will tolerate only as juveniles. As they mature they really need to be in more of a brackish or marine environment. Like all puffers, they need to be introduced to an established tank.

What ever type of water the puffer is in at purchase, make sure you slowly and properly introduce it to its new environment, normally doing a drip method. If you are starting it in freshwater, try moving it to brackish water before moving it to a marine tank. A generous weekly water change of 30% to 50% is the standard recommendation for a puffer aquarium.

Because of the type of foods and the manner at which they eat, this puffer tends to be very messy and produces a lot of waste. Because of this a large canister filter that turns the tank over at least 6-10 times per hour is needed.

  • Water Changes: Weekly - Water change should be 30-50% weekly.

Aquarium Setup

A 20 gallon aquarium will work well for this puffer, however if you want to keep more than one or some other species with them, a well planted 50 - 60 gallon aquarium is better. Provide plenty of plants and rockwork for retreats as well as open areas for swimming. These puffers are amazing jumpers and require a totally enclosed lid. As juveniles in nature, during the rainy season these puffers will jump from puddle to puddle searching for food and to return to the rivers

The Green Spotted puffer can be a bit difficult to maintain because as they mature, their water condition requirements change. As a juvenile they can tolerate a fresh water environment. As they mature, they require a brackish to a marine environment to thrive in. Juvenile Tetraodon nigroviridis do best with salinity levels at 1.005-1.008 and adults at 1.018-1.022 to insure health and maximized life. Use a marine salt formula. A hydrometer should also be used to monitor the level of salt.

As with all puffers Golden Puffer is extremely sensitive to nitrates and ammonia. They require an alkaline based pH of around 8. To do this without chemical add aragonite or crushed coral to your sand substrate. They have very messy eating habits, therefore, the tank needs large canister filters that turn the tank over 6-10 times per hour. Rotating powerheads are needed to simulate the currents of the rivers they come from. With the right conditions these puffers have be known to live up to 15 years.

If you plan on adding more of these puffers. As with most, they are very territorial and need their own space. It is always good to add a lot of caves, plants with twisted roots, rocks and other decor to break the puffer's line of sight to calm aggression and give territorial boundaries.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L) - If you want to keep more than one or some other species as well, then a well planted 50 - 60 gallon aquarium is better.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes - A Nano tank is fine as long as it meets the size requirements and has proper filtration.
  • Substrate Type: Sand/Gravel Mix - Mix with aragonite or crushed coral to maintain pH at about 8.
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8° C)
  • Range ph: 7.5-8.5
  • Hardness Range: 9 - 19 dGH
  • Brackish: Yes - Juvenile do best with salinity levels at 1.005-1.008 and adults at 1.018-1.022 to insure good health and maximized life.
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Middle - They will swim in both the middle and lower regions of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

Like all the pufferfish, the Green Spotted Puffer can vary greatly in temperament from one individual to another. They are generally regarded as aggressive fin-nippers and often kept singly. However they can be kept in a community setting with others of their own species as well as other large non-aggressive species. In a community setting, be sure there is plenty of room and that the aquarium is well planted. It can also have a variety of other decor such as rocks and roots. Place the decor in a manner that breaks their line of site and provides plenty of retreats for all the fish.

If you do try to put a juvenile puffer into you community tank, do not be fooled by its shy and timid behavior. These little guys have a viscous streak in them. It will only be a matter of time before their natural instinct kicks in and you start seeing fish disappearing. Some people have had luck with larger semi-aggressive tank mates but there is no guarantee. Never try to introduce long-finned slow swimming fish as they will be instant targets for your puffer. The Green Spotted Puffer is not considered a shoaling fish but are usually tolerant of their own species. So a mono-species tank is usually best.

  • Venomous: Yes - Puffer fish harbor toxic substances in their flesh, and the Golden Puffer may be venomous if it is consumed.
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - Needs a tank big enough for each to have their own territory as well as plenty of plants and other decor to break their line of sight.
    • Peaceful fish (): Threat
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat - is aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

Sexual differences are unknown.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Spotted Green Puffer fish Has not been bred commercially in captivity, but possibly bred successfully by hobbyists. Research indicates that the female will lay approximately 200 eggs on a smooth, protected surface. They are also known to guard the nest, notably the male.

If you are lucky enough to have purchased a male and a female, captive breeding will be likely to take place. The mortality rate for these fry are extremely high, so without a great deal of experience most of the fry will be lost. The female will find a smooth surface, normally a tight well protect area to lay her clear eggs. The male will protect the eggs until they hatch. It will take around a week before you see the eggs begin to hatch. At the first sign of hatching start feeding the fry young brine shrimp and microworms. As they grow they will start eating small snails.

  • Ease of Breeding: Difficult

Fish Diseases

The Green Spotted Puffer does not have gill covers or scales which make it more prone to disease. Puffers are normally the first fish in a tank to show signs of ick and will twitch and rub around the tank. They respond well to most medication and normally heal quickly. NEVER use copper in a Puffer tank.

Another common issue, though not a disease; Puffer's teeth grow very fast and if not wore down or clipped will lead to overgrowth and starvation. In an aquarium; even when feeding snails and other shelled foods, there is still normally a chance you will have to trim their teeth. This sound much worse then it is. To accomplish this carefully place puffer in a container of water without exposing them to the air. Add 3 drops of clove oil per liter of water; this will temporarily sedate the puffer so you can hold the puffer in your hand more easily. You will need cuticle clippers; use these to clip bottom and top teeth. Once done put puffer in a container or net that will have the current flowing over them. Once awake release back into tank.

Because the Green Spotted Puffer is wild caught it could carry internal parasites. So if it hasn't been done, a de-worming would be smart. For more information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.

Availability

The Spotted Green Puffer, also called the Green Spotted or Spotted Puffer Fish, are commonly available from pet stores and online, and are moderately priced.

References

Author: Clarice Brough CFS, Jeremy Roche
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Lastest Animal Stories on Spotted Green Puffer

Steve Bussard - 2007-02-14
Temperments very greatly with these guys! Most are very subdued and just plain happy go lucky. I have 2 of these guys in my 90 gallon with several other fish, all MILDLY agressive. When first introduced to the tank they nipped at the fins of my angel, but after approximately a week, they left her alone. Some don't stop and do need to be placed in their own tank, but most will do very well in a comunity tank as long as the tank has fish agressive enough to set these little guys straight. Other than that, they are a very cute, fun, friendly, smart, and entertaining fish to care for. I personally would put their temperment in a class similar to an oscar, but of course on a much smaller size scale. I suggest anyone that wants an easy to care for, fun to watch fish, get at least one of these cuties.

  • Sarah Wheeler - 2014-07-23
    Aw that is so cute haha, before when we got a betta, we put him with some goldfish and of course he attacked. We caught him with a nat and held him in the net against the tank wall(no harm done just trappin him for 1 minuete).  everytime he flared we did this and t would spook him a bit. eventully this betta lived with several goldish and other types of fish and didnt bite anymore! We put this to the test with my green spotted puffers witch i was new at. when a puffer bit another puufer or fish we net him for a min. after that the puffers live with minnows (yes still brackish waters) and other fish and dont bite them! the good thing is they still eat live worms and snails but dont hurt any other fish.
Reply
TT - 2008-11-28
I wish people would quit about brackish requirements for keeping Spotted Green Puffers. It has no factual bases. The Spotted Green Puffer is an amazing fish. In their natural habitat they breed and spawn in Brackish water. However, adults typically migrate to freshwater. Adult Spotted Green Puffers have been found in Marine, Brackish and Freshwater habitats. They will do just fine in a freshwater tank. However, you can't just take one which has been living in brackish or marine environment and drop them into a freshwater environment. The reverse is also true. As long as you provide a clean freshwater environment with hardwater and a slightly higher ph, this great fish will do just fine. Don't spit out information you read on the internet from people whom have no idea what they're talking about.

  • Blake D - 2010-04-25
    So can I expect any of the thirteen SGPs in my small pond outside to breed? I gave them plenty of plants and a few small lilies for shade from the harsh southern Louisiana sun. Coolers and heaters keep the water temp between 75 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit year round. They never really show any aggressiveness towards there pond mates of neon tetras, mollies, platys, guppies, and the one loan beta. All other live bearers bread wildly with a high rate of fry survival. I even throw extra salt water from my reef tank into the pond and keep it at brackish levels. Should I be focused on planting swords? Or should I focus on giving them a more rocky type playground with slate standing straight up like discus use for there eggs? Or both?
  • Anonymous - 2010-08-19
    No, no, no, no, no, no.

    They are born in FRESHWATER, and migrate to higher salinities as they mature.

    You are right in mentioning that they require a higher pH... but don't dismiss the comments about the varying salinity these little guys require! Having your salinity bounce between 1.008-1.020 over the course a 2 months is ideal.
  • Christy - 2010-09-17
    That information does not come from information people read on the internet. It comes from actual experiences with green puffers doing extremely poor in freshwater conditions. I dont know if you have ever seen a green puffer in marine conditions, but i can guarantee it looks much better than yours.
  • des - 2011-02-22
    You are right.
  • coenobitaexpert - 2011-04-06
    I think we should just be kind to one another. No ones puffer fish looks any better than the rest. This comes from a marine biologist, specializing in Coenobitas. Just cool your puffers.
  • Anonymous - 2013-11-06
    My puffer got sucked into my filter and when i tried to see what was clogging my filter it poked me does anybody know if they are poisonous and can they harm humans
  • Clarice Brough - 2013-11-07
    The Green Spotted Puffers, such as Tetraodon nigroviridis and Tetraodon fluviatilis, absorb poisons from their food, specifically algae inside the guts of clams and other shellfish. When they stop feeding in the wild, the amount of poison slowly declines. Consequently most pufferfish found in captivity will be without poison.
  • Jo - 2013-11-20
    Hi. I am new to GSP fish. Got as a gift with all equipment that's should have. Problem is as was reading it needs brackish water. Went to the store which it was bought at and they said they are in freshwater in their store, looking healthy. Now mine is small so how do I adjust his water to brackish ? It's the only fish I got in this 100l tank and she is around 2 inches no more. Please help.
  • Shannon Ellen - 2014-05-20
    Hey fellow fish friends,

    I've had my 2 GSPs for 2 years.  I bought them as juveniles living in brackish water, with the salinity at about 1.014.  They have been living in a 20 gallon long tank with crushed coral and sand, and over the past 2 years, I have been raising the salinity of their water to match my saltwater tank.  2 weeks ago, I finally achieved my plan - the puffer tank water matched my saltwater tank with a salinity of 1.024.  Then I transferred my puffers into my saltwater tank.  Are they aggressive?  Not at all!  My saltwater tank has gobies, a blenny and a file fish.  Everyone is super happy together, and my puffers actually seem happier to have tank mates.  They have been nibbling on the live rock (helps keep their teeth filed down) and they are even eating flake and brine shrimp and mysis and still nibbling on the trumpet snails I drop in once a week.  My belief, from my experience, is that they do much better in a saltwater tank - maybe it's because the water is naturally harder and the pH is higher, but I find that they have been healthier and healthier as the salinity has been rising.  Just my experience.  Great discussion!
Reply
Liam D - 2008-02-06
Horatio and his teeth!! Following on from the overfeeding incident Horatio seemed off his food and was a nasty grey colour and not his usual interactive self. On looking at his face he appeared to be all teeth, his top teeth touching his bottom (GSP s have 4 teeth/beak for crunching shells). Googling puffer teeth showed I would need to trim them for him to eat or he would starve! Fearing he would die anyway I carried out the following procedure. I used a dish about 2 inches deep containing his tank water, about 1/2 pint, to which I added 3 drops of clove oil. I placed him into dish and gently rocked the dish until his fins stopped moving and he rolled onto his side. Then I fished him out in a net trimming his teeth with cuticle cutters (heart stopping stuff), steady hand required and not for the faint hearted! Once I had trimmed back a suitable amount I placed him back into his tank still in the net with the filter water on him until there was movement. About 20 minutes later he was swimming around. A day later he was looking a lot less grey and is now his playful self.

  • nick - 2013-02-21
    i dont have pufferfish but every fish i buy it dies over the next couple weeks what should i do about this the oly thing i got is two corycats and thair the only ones that didnt die
Reply
Mike - 2009-11-29
I have had two green spotted puffers for close to two years now and they are so much fun to watch. I originally started with one that I put in a 72 gal bow front aquarium with several much larger aggressive fish thinking that he should do well. The next morning I woke up to a group of large fish huddling in the corner looking much the worse for wear with my little puffer happily swimming around the rest of the tank. Instead of returning the vicious little cartoon character I set up a 29 gallon tank for him and got him a tank mate both of which get along great. I eventually bumped the tank up to brackish conditions and have since moved it up to a full marine tank, where they seem the happiest so far, and added other saltwater fish and they all get along well. I do make it a point to keep them well fed. My little Maroon clown fish even hangs out with them because no one in the tank will mess with them, not even my larger Niger Triggerfish. I'm in the process of setting up a 100 gallon saltwater tank to move them all to.

  • nemirn - 2010-08-20
    Any other tankmate candidates beside the maroon clown or Niger Trigger?
  • Olivia - 2010-08-22
    How many times do you feed them? And has your fish ever just sat at the top of the water, not belly up but just sat there. I just got mine two days ago and I love him to death and I really really don't want him to die because he was the most healthy looking fish there [walmart]. I've spent so much money on decorations and a new filter and air pump for this tank I've had for the longest time. I ask you this because you seem like you would know a lot about them and seem to have had them the longest. I'm very new to this.
  • hermione - 2010-09-13
    I love this particular story. But I own a green spotted puffer fish and have him in with my powder blue cichlid in a five gallon tank. And they do just fine together but I'm still wanting to know more about the little cartoons we call green spotted puffer fish. If you know much more about this little guy let me know.
Reply
nick - 2009-04-19
To the person with the comment about the belly changing to black. A friend of mine had a spotted puffer for a couple of years that would regularly change his belly from cream to black, like a chameleon they change color as they see fit(so I'm told). I just bought 2 spotted and a figure 8 today, very excited to have these little guys.

  • Turner - 2010-04-14
    Bought my little SGP and two days later saw him curled up and black...Thought dead..Then a couple of hours later he was green and spunky. He does this several times a day. So weird. Chameleon? What is going on? Would love to know. He is nippy and scares the other fish. (gold fish) when he's out and about. He's just darlin though and quite the showfish for friends.
  • Chels - 2010-05-07
    GSP fish bellies change to black when they are stressed or upset about something. It is like their own little mood detector. I think it is the coolest thing. I have one that we call moody because he constantly has some splotch of black somewhere on his belly and quickly changes to complete white when we feed him or visit him. Just think of your gsp's belly changing color its own little was of communicating with you.
  • Puffsta - 2010-07-25
    Thank you so much for that info. I have been wondering and couldn't find anything about it and thought he kept getting sick but I started noticing that it would change several times during the day sometimes too. I think that is right about their mood and chameleon-ism. Mine's seems to be more mood and maybe stress from what I have noticed. He clears right up after I feed him or different things.
  • geo burton.uk - 2010-08-17
    I don't think it so much that they are stressed more chilled out or like a child that dose not get there own way (in a boo ,in a bad mood ). I have had my gspf for 18 months and are doing v well. Fed on frozen bloodworm, frozen krill and fresh water snails (separate culture tank )for up keep of beak ,but they really love cooked and cooled mussels. I am currently at specific gravity of 1.014 but raise and drop this weekly or monthly as it would in wild plus will kill of parasites that get used to certain levels of salt. I may have a breeding pair as one has very swollen belly looking forward to seeing eggs. Hope that anyone who buys these fish enjoy them as much as I do.
Reply
thomas combs - 2008-09-22
I have two gsp. I first put them in a tank with mollies and dwarf gouramis, they killed a gourami and nipped the fins of a mollie. Well I put them in a tank with a red devil, 4 oscars, pacu, red tailed cat, pleco, and jacks. An oscar tried to eat one puffer and quickly spit him back out. Well they proceeded to terrorize my cat, then ended up killing a 5 inch oscar, and nipped everybodies fins except the pleco, so I put them in their own tank with 2 figure 8 puffers and they are happy. I feed snails, clams, and krill and just so they have something to do I give them 30 guppies at a time. Inch for inch. gsp are some bad a?? fish.

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